Helsinki is a city with a healing effect. Some cities drain all your energy, but in Helsinki you can recharge more of it.
Bruce Oreck is the former US ambassador to Finland. He has become a well-known figure to the people of Helsinki through the years. Oreck continues to live part-time in Finland now that his ambassadorship is over.
Bruce Oreck's Helsinki is above all a maritime city.
"When I lived on Manhattan it felt like the rivers were not a part of the city. In Helsinki you cannot escape the sea. It's everywhere. I believe that we have an in-built necessity to be near water."
Bruce Oreck currently spearheads the development project of the former train shed facility in Helsinki's Vallila district. The venue is due to become a lively and fun hub for urban culture.
"This new restaurant has excellent vegetarian food and vegan options. It is situated near my home by Ruttopuisto (the Old Church Park, or "Plague Park") so I often walk there in the evenings. I'm not someone to sit around for hours in a restaurant – I'm so impatient that 45 minutes is enough for a dinner. I have other things to do! This said, the most important things about a restaurant are good food and good service. Yes Yes Yes has both."
"The sauna resembles a holy place. I'm a member of the Finnish Sauna Society, an association with sauna facilities for members and their guests. Not a single friend of mine has ever left from there without saying it's among their top experiences ever. The Sauna Society has several saunas in Lauttasaari, including a smoke sauna along with amazing views. An open-to-all sauna I go to is the Sompasauna in Kalasatama. It's a funky pirate sauna with an absolutely brilliant atmosphere. The sauna burned down but apparently a new one is being built. I go to the sauna year-round, and I have trouble deciding if I prefer it in summer or winter. It is amazing to take an icy dip in the water in the darkness surrounded by snow. I'm, however, not as strongly built as the elderly ladies who visit the ice holes. They can swim for several minutes."
"I like books and libraries. The National Library, designed by C. L. Engel, is a magnificent place. It is a very Finnish place with its ceiling frescoes and seems to me to celebrate the relationship of Finns with nature. Magnus Enckel's mural "Kulta-aika" (The Golden Age) is fabulous. I'm a great fan of the Golden Age of Finnish art: I have works by Pekka Halonen and Akseli Gallen-Kallela hanging on my walls. When I arrived in Finland, I read many books on the country and its history, yet the best way to get to know Finland is to go around and meet people. I always feel very welcomed and I've gotten chances to tour more places in the country than most Finns."
"I especially like the building. It is magnificent, although it's getting too small for a museum. As a building it is quite quirky. I enjoy the old architecture and old houses of Helsinki a lot. Their designers wanted to create something that stays with you. Old buildings always bring something extra to a city, while new buildings often look like they could be anywhere. They rarely hold the same passion."
"I have a boat at the Rowing Stadium. I often start off early in the morning and row my boat towards the city. I might row, for example, to the end of the Bulevardi street in Hietalahti and visit the market. I've even rowed all the way to the main market square. Helsinki looks very different from the sea. I recommend any and all means to experience the city from the sea."
"If I want a pizza and a beer, this no-bullshit style relaxed pizzeria is a favourite of mine. It's an unpretentious place with quick service and good pizza. I can't stand it, however, that Finns eat their pizza with a knife and fork! I'm American, so I think pizza should be eaten by hand. I know how to cook yet I rarely do, and all in all I like very simple food. I've always found fancy dinners to be quite boring. They were never my thing when I worked as a diplomat, even if the hosts and hostesses were lovely people."
"When I lived in Kaivopuisto, I would always walk along the shore and around the park. Everyone coming to visit Helsinki should walk around the city along the water. I like to stop by Cafe Carusel on the seaside to have a cinnamon bun fresh from the oven."
"The Torikorttelit (Tori Quarters) block is an excellent place to see Finnish design in a historical setting by the Helsinki Cathedral. The shops and cafes are small and local with an absence of big international chains. I find the Torikorttelit project to be very finely done. It could use more signs so that people can find their way around more easily. For the city to blossom, we all need to cooperate. Working together brings success and customers. The city should support locality and self-made efforts. That's what makes a city unique."